Not quite halfway through four weeks of preparation for BYU's season opener at UConn, head coach Bronco Mendenhall on Tuesday said "man, it seems like camp has gone on forever, already."
Pronouncing the team "relatively healthy, and progressing, peaking towards scrimmage Friday night," Mendenhall said that "I feel good about where we are," but acknowledged again the grind of the preseason--a preseason he has said before could be a week shorter without sacrificing any readiness for opening day.
Asked if there might ever come a time when a coach voluntarily opts not to use the maximum of NCAA-allotted preseason practice periods, Mendenhall said "(I'm) tempted to (shorten camp), because I know of a lot of coaches right now that don't use their double-days when they have them."
The first week of BYU training camp featured wide receiver Nick Kurtz standing out. Saturday, at BYU's first scrimmage of camp, Kurtz was sitting out--due to a foot fracture that was diagnosed on Friday.
The injury news was a downbeat way to start the day; head coach Bronco Mendenhall said Kurtz will be out for "probably six to eight weeks, would be my guess."
"Luckily we have depth at receiver at this this point," said Mendenhall, "but that will hurt us, because he was doing a really nice job."
Day six of BYU training camp concluded with a media-observation period featuring red-zone work. Taysom Hill had three productive series, ending them with touchdown passes to Nick Kurtz (twice) and Terenn Houk.
Hill's backup Christian Stewart again got a lot of reps, and connected with Colby Pearson on a long TD strike during an 11-on-11 segment; word is the two also connected on a deep score before reporters were allowed in.
A BYU camp practice that was originally scheduled to be closed was opened to the public on Wednesday, with just under a thousand fans filling the available seats at the Student Athlete Building fields.
Those on hand saw Bronco Mendenhall put his players through a two-hour session that featured running back Algernon Brown in uniform for the first time, and tight end Devin Mahina doing some live work for the first time in camp.
Having missed the first four practices due to academics-related issues, Brown was in helmet-only mode on Wednesday, with the rest of his teammates taking part in the first fully-padded practice of the month. Mahina, who is recovering from an ankle injury suffered during pre-camp conditioning, was in full pads and running live routes in the "skelly" portions of practice.
PROVO — While BYU football is known for its rich quarterback traditions, it’s not the only position where the Cougars have turned out some great athletes. With names like Pitta, Harline, George, Lewis, Mili, Hudson and Brown, the tight end position has proven to be a productive and beneficial part of the BYU offense.
One day after a closed session that head coach Bronco Mendenhall said "might have been one of the most difficult and intense practices that we've ever had," the coach eased off the gas somewhat on Tuesday, cutting a little short his team's morning session on day four of camp.
Upwards of two dozen players were either absent or limited to non-contact/conditioning work, but Mendenhall said the early-camp attrition level has been par for the course.
"Today was thin, but man, we've gone really hard, " said Mendenhall. "Even though it's (only) day four, guys are working hard, and so I felt that I could cut it short because of that."
BYU fans were welcomed to an open practice on the second day of training camp Saturday, and the hundreds who turned out had to leave impressed with a passing game that again stood out for its big-play potential.
Backup quarterback Christian Stewart got a lot of work in the two-hour session, connecting on deep scoring strikes with Mitch Mathews, Nick Kurtz (twice) and Mitchell Juergens. Taysom Hill found Jordan Leslie for a long TD late in the closing segment of practice. Devon Blackmon also turned a long catch into a score.
Particularly impressive non-scoring catches were turned in by Blackmon and Nick Ziolkowski; Blackmon snared a one-handed reception on the sideline midway through practice, while Ziolkowski went horizontal on an out-pattern early in the day. Stanford transfer Keanu Nelson also stood out with a fine individual effort to record one of the nicer catches of the day.
PROVO — The opening day of BYU training camp saw starting running back Jamaal Williams unusually relegated to the second-string.
After a two-hour, late-afternoon practice in the scorching heat, Williams explained that the demotion was part of a punishment that will include suspension for the season opener at Connecticut.
Williams acknowledged violation of the school's honor code, and without getting into details, said that a "combination" of events led to the discipline--punishment that head coach Bronco Mendenhall did not intend to announce.
On the eve of the start of BYU Football's annual August training camp, I've identified 15 questions that could be answered in the coming four weeks.
No particular attempt has been made to strictly prioritize the issues addressed, but the order of the questions is less important than the questions themselves, and their value relative to one another could be debated.
PROVO — BYU announced a home-and-home football series with Northern Illinois on Wednesday. The Cougars and Huskies will play in Provo on Oct. 27, 2018. BYU will travel to DeKalb, Illinois, on Oct. 24, 2020.
The 2018 matchup at LaVell Edwards Stadium will mark the first-ever meeting between the two football programs.
BYU also announced that Idaho State will play at LaVell Edwards Stadium next season. The Bengals will face the Cougars on Oct. 24, 2015. BYU owns a 5-0 record all-time against ISU.
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